The Power of Education to change the Climate Crisis

Phoebe Thomas and Thiziri Boussaid
August 1, 2021

Teach The Future’s main goal is to achieve an education system where students are taught an adequate amount about the climate crisis - but why is this so important? By integrating one of today’s most pressing issues (if not the MOST pressing issue) into children’s secondary education, the messages and truth of the situation can be genuinely understood by the students, influencing their interests and choices throughout life - day to day decisions and also life changing choices such as their future goals and career. If you are honest with yourself, has there really been not a single climate statistic you’ve encountered that has shocked you? Did you not wish you’d encountered the truth sooner? In failing to educate future generations about  the climate crisis, the government is also failing to enlighten them to the pathways they can take to avoid the worst. In failing to educate them, we are setting them up for the biggest and most life-affecting shock of their lives. A few of the figures we show on our website reveal the truth of the matter: 68% of students want to know more about climate change and 75% of teachers feel they have not had adequate training in regards to teaching it. If we amended these issues, what would be the result?

On the 5th November 2019, Italy announced that they would be incorporating climate education into their education system, with 33 hours of required climate education (which is 1 hour a week), which began this September. By educating students on the climate crisis then we are building a future full of proactive thinkers - not just isolated to the climate crisis itself but creating a wider and more fleshed out perspective of the world in a social and scientific way. This is just as much about educating our future generations than minimising the damage of the climate crisis. Indeed, it is not as if current issues haven’t been integrated into the British curriculum before - British Citizenship GCSE students have been well-versed in Brexit in order to pass their exams, an issue that will certainly affect their future, similarly to the climate crisis. If we know it can be done successfully, what is holding the government back?

Without significant government change, other schools and programmes have taken the initiative to start implementing eco-conscious changes into their systems. For example, the global Eco Schools programme created by the FEE (foundation for environmental education) has been implemented in many schools in over 68 countries with great success, using an approach that involves students being educated and also getting stuck in with making green changes happen in their local school environment. This programme has obviously seen great success ecologically (Eco schools consume less water, less energy and produce less waste - saving underfunded schools plenty of money to re-invest into the school) but also have been proven through independent research to have an impressive impact on the students themselves, such as increased confidence, improved leadership/teamwork skills and even to improve school-wide pupil behaviour and motivation. Other similar programmes (such as the Green Flag Award scheme) have shown the same benefits - in introducing climate education to schools, we also encourage teamwork, drive and overall uplift in our children’s learning communities. 

An example of a school where such changes have taken place for the better is our school, The Chase,  where we have taken part in the Green Flag Award scheme and implemented many other changes to both improve education and the futures of our pupils in terms of the climate crisis. Our school Eco Club (started in November 2018) has arranged many eco education assemblies, events (such as bake sales, litter picks and interviews with key figures) and in 2019 the Chase even announced its own climate crisis (being one of the first in the country to do so), introducing new forms of recycling, ways of teaching and other measures to reflect this. This in turn has also curated a relevant, hopeful and cohesive learning environment within the Chase and a sense of community in the aim of achieving change. Educators such as Mike Fieldhouse (headteacher) and Sarah Dukes (sustainability coordinator) at The Chase try to educate a more sustainable viewpoint, but without a comprehensive change in the curriculum there is only so much they can do - government change would push our efforts so much further and spread the same learning environment throughout the country. 

Sociology, psychology, philosophy and ethics, english literature and language, history, design and technology, catering. You can weave sustainability and climate change into every single subject offered at every level of education. Indeed, this is the very nature of the climate crisis- it infiltrates every area of our lives and will affect every aspect of our children’s future. Discussions can be altered to mirror current affairs, personal interests, useful workplace skills, etcetera - Teach the Future is not looking for an ultra-academicised approach, but one that prepares the children of Britain for what they will undoubtedly face moving forward: a worldwide climate emergency, and a drastic shift in the world they currently know. Today’s youth deserve to be adequately prepared for what’s to come, and the best way to achieve this is by harnessing one power: The Power of Education.